It’s time to celebrate not only the blog’s 6th birthday, but also the chance to say a wholehearted “fuck you!” as we finally leave 2020 behind. It’s been a deeply challenging year, and the road ahead is still rough and uncertain, but if there’s anything we can take away from our time in quarantine, it is learning to better appreciate the little things in life. Even a music industry left battered by the impact of Covid and incompetent governments has still been able to produce some incredible releases for us to cling on to. Before we put this crazy year in the rear view mirror, let’s take one last look back at the music that helped us through it all.
Album of the Year: The Amazing Devil – The Horror and the Wild
Weaving together an entrancing gothic atmosphere and moving moments of humanity, with their own singular style of wit and some of the most heart-soaring hooks you could hope to hear, this dazzling duo have delivered an absolute showstopper of a record. It’s an album that has swiftly become one of my all time favourites, and I just can’t recommend it enough. (Full Album List)
EP of the Year: Camp 8 – Everything
It defies all logic that so much majesty and meaning can be brought to life within just twenty minutes of music. It’s not just a collection of songs, it’s one interconnected artwork that tells an affecting and intimate tale of heartbreak. It sets its ambitions higher than any other EP I’ve heard in a long time, and nails every last one of them. (Full EP List)
Song of the Year: Sophie Morgan – Unwinnable War
This Belwood favourite has simply outdone herself with this most recent standout single. The familiar and welcoming warmth of Sophie’s signature sound, supplemented with a soft melodic twang, a brief snarl of guitar and some of her best vocals to date, ensured that this track snagged the top spot. (Full Song List)
Video of the Year: Dua Lipa – Physical
An absolute technicolour triumph. The sheer vibrancy of this video alone would have been enough to earn the title, but the great choreography, cinematography, and the myriad of engaging visual ideas seemingly sprinkled on just for good measure, only serve to further seal the deal. (Full Video List)
Album Cover of the Year: Pocket Vinyl – Winter Person
Such a wonderfully fantastical scene, like a long forgotten fairy-tale brought to life. The colours are gorgeous, the blues and gold tones complimenting each other perfectly, and I love the sense of depth that’s been given to the surrounding forest. (Full Artwork List)
The White Feather Award for Disappointment of the Year: 2020 in general
This one needs no explanation…
Soundtrack of the Year: Soul
A late but worthy winner in a year where cinema has been really struggling. The effervescent jazz arrangements really capture the spark that the film so often talks about, and the bittersweet original score help make Soul among the most introspective and thought-provoking animated features.
Discovery of the Year: Coyote Kid
I recall a couple of years ago stumbling upon the brilliant Bone Crown by a band called Marah in the Mainsail just a bit too late to really review it, and kicking myself about it for weeks afterwards. I told myself to keep an ear to the ground for their next record. Lo and behold their brilliant follow up The Skeleton Man also ends up slipping under my radar, as somehow I missed the memo that the band had changed their name to Coyote Kid. Hopefully third time’s the charm, and I manage to properly review their next release, but given my track record I wanted to at least give them a shout out with my Discovery Award, just in case!
The Forgotten Gem Award: Rope and Ladder
I’ve been swamped with more new music this past year than ever before. If I were to list every album that I wanted to cover this year, but sadly didn’t get around to, I could fill up a whole other blog. Among them are many worthy winners of this award, but ultimately the album I most wish I had found the time to properly delve into is the eponymous rock opera from Rope and Ladder. This epic concept album brings so much to the table and I look forward to the day when I can sit down and really unravel it all.
The Spotlight! Award for Best New Artist: Cristina Hart
This Belwood favourite really made the best of the bad hand dealt to us by 2020. Cristina just rolled up her sleeves and delivered some of the biggest bops of the year. With upbeat arrangements to lift your spirits, charming music videos in spite of all the red tape of Covid restrictions, and sincere relatable lyrics for everyone struggling to put on a brave face, she’s been just the booster shot of joy that we all needed. Given how she’s smashed it in such a difficult year, there’ll be no stopping her once normality is eventually restored.
Best Female Solo Artist: Taylor Swift
I mean… you just can’t deny it, can you? With folklore she stripped away all the insincere commercial trappings and petty drama and released something genuine, purposeful and utterly brilliant. Working in total sync with an inspired cast of collaborators, and showcasing some of her best songwriting to date, when this secret record dropped it took the whole world by storm. That’s more than enough to take the title, not even counting her second album of the year evermore.
Best Male Solo Artist: Simon Alexander
Another artist delivering two great albums in 2020, as well as starting the year off with a superb EP to offer a taste of what was to come. His acoustic debut A Place To Call Home, and its full band follow-up Riverine, have between them offered up the finest intersection of folk, Americana and indie rock of this past year. I guess while most of us have spent quarantine laid in bed eating banana bread and playing Animal Crossing, Simon and Taylor have taken it upon themselves to reignite the renaissance.
Band of the Year: The Amazing Devil
I always have such a vast ocean of new music to wade through, that even when I stumble across something I love, I get to spend such precious little time with it before I need to move on to the next release. This year I’ve been damn sure to make an exception. No matter how long and daunting my to-do list got, I still found time to make The Horror and the Wild part of my daily ritual. This delightful duo have been a real lifeline in this challenging year, and so the least I can do is offer one last shout-out in return.